The Northern Ireland Assembly and the School Curriculum

The Assembly Education Service engaged with more than 80,000 young people during the last mandate. The aim of this work is to inform young people about the work of the Assembly and encourage them to get involved, but how does this work fit into the Northern Ireland Curriculum?

Students from Shimna College visiting the Northern Ireland Assembly
Students from Shimna College visiting the Northern Ireland Assembly

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Economic impact of cuts to the Higher Education sector

Education and training are key factors in economic progress, acting as a means of raising productivity. Whilst other factors can result in short-run economic improvements, education and training are critical to embedding long-term growth. As such, the current reductions in funding for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) could potentially have a negative impact on future economic development in Northern Ireland (NI).

A student reading in a library (Image: Tulane University, under Creative Commons)
A student reading in a library (Image: Tulane University, under Creative Commons)

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An equal start? Overcoming early disadvantage

How can we ensure that children’s early years lay firm foundations for the future? During the first five years of life children develop at a rapid rate, and their experiences during this period profoundly influence their life chances.

Nurture unit at Blackmountain Primary School, Belfast
Nurture unit at Blackmountain Primary School, Belfast

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Science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)

How well is the compulsory education system supporting demand for STEM skills in Northern Ireland?

Skills development is critical in driving economic growth, and evidence highlights the importance of STEM subjects in contributing to innovation and productivity within economies. However, demand for people with high quality STEM qualifications outstrips supply in Northern Ireland, and employers face challenges in recruiting appropriately skilled STEM workers at every level. This undersupply is particularly acute in the areas of maths, computer science, engineering and technology, in line with growth forecasts for the ICT, Professional Services and Advanced Manufacturing sectors. Women are particularly underrepresented among the STEM workforce.

An illustration of STEM education word typography: strengthening the STEM ‘artery’ will require a range of approaches
STEM education word typography: strengthening the STEM ‘artery’ will require a range of approaches

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Changes ahead for special educational needs

The growth of special educational needs and the implementation of new legislation point to challenges ahead.

There has been a steady increase in the prevalence of special educational needs (SEN) in Northern Ireland over the past ten years, rising from 16% of all school pupils in 2005/06 to 22% of pupils (73,435) in 2014/15.

Implementation of the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) Act, together with forthcoming subordinate legislation and a revised statutory Code of Practice, present a number of challenges for the new Assembly. Under the revised approach, the number of SEN assessment stages will reduce from five to three, and it is likely that fewer children will undergo statutory assessment and receive a statement of SEN, with greater emphasis placed instead on in-school support.

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